Sonabai, self-taught artist and inspiration

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On a rainy day in San Diego, this dragon blew into the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park on free museum day. (There was actually a tornado watch going on outside! I love to fly in a storm but tornados really tear up my wings!)

Inside I found an amazing exhibit called Sonabai, Another Way of Seeing. For a decade and a half, Sonabai Rajawar only contact was with her husband and child! In response to this isolation, she created an entirely new artistic expression of color, light, and fun.

How amazing that she had no instruction or guidance, but was able to create such joyous art! Years later, quite by chance, the Indian art world discovered her and later gave her India’s highest honor, the prestigious President’s Award.

sonabaibookSonabai’s story clearly expresses the capacity of human beings (including dragons) everywhere to meet their challenges head on and to draw from within themselves the strength and insight to change their lives.  Sonabai found ways to transform her oppression into expressions of courage, beauty, and joy in living. What an inspiration!

I love the way guest curator Stephen Huyler truly captured the feeling of Sonabai’s environment in hi very creative exhibit of short videos of the artist at work and village scenes, projections of village dancers, and photomurals of Sonabai’s studio.Curator Stephen Huyler

How different life in this village is from life in America! I especially love the variety and brilliance of colors in the women’s clothing (even for picking rice). These truly amazed me, as I don’t think they go to their local K-Mart to buy their clothing and yet the colors seemed brighter than the average outfit around here. Also the looks of pure delight and playfulness on the faces of the women and children so expressed their pure pleasure in the simple things in life! (Dr. Huyler’s photomurals of Sonabai’s studio made me want to fly right out to central India to see these sights for myself and join the villagers in their dance!)

Sonabai PhotomuralsSeeing the works of Sonabai, as well as the art of her four students in this exhibit, gave me hope and inspiration. Sonabai’s story reminded me of the story of holocaust survivor Victor Frankl. He concluded that life has potential meaning and that therefore even suffering is meaningful.

So true for Sonabai who emerged from her oppression to inspire artists, as well as others all over the world, with her art and story!

Whose story inspires you? Please share your inspiration here!

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2 Comments

  1. Hello author can I use some of the information from this article if I provide a link back to your website?

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    • Yes, that would be great! Please send us the link after you’ve posted the information to your website.

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